Hindsight’s 2020: 5 Lessons to Bring into 2021

Tiffany Chu

CEO & Co-founder, Remix

While looking forward to 2021, Tiffany Chu reflects on her top five moments of learning from 2020.

2020 has been a whirlwind. Despite the unexpected challenges we faced, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our ever-inspiring community. Having been CEO at Remix for the past 12 months, 2020 will undoubtedly be one of my most memorable years yet. As I look forward to what’s to come, I reflect on my top five moments of learning: 

1. Coming together quickly, while making space for vulnerability.

In March, the transportation industry was faced with developing a quick and effective COVID response. We organized ourselves and our community to host an expert policy webinar series -- after which participants from multiple continents made it clear that we needed to come together in new ways to navigate the crisis.

In return, Remix launched Transpo Talk, a Slack group where transportation practitioners can convene and confront the unique challenges of the pandemic together. People collaborated in real-time by sharing knowledge and resources, keeping up-to-date on news, and connecting with like-minded professionals for support and camaraderie. 

Visit remix.com/transpo-talk to join a community of transportation professionals.

We were so touched by the leadership that both cities and transit agencies showed — not just for their own organizations, but for the broader industry. So many community members volunteered to host or even proactively reached out to help spearhead Transpo Talk Exclusives — intimate, honest roundtables about evolving best practices. City leadership and other transportation professionals led frank conversations about the pandemic’s impact on service, equity goals, fiscal outlooks, and more while guests brought pressing questions and shared their struggles.

2. Literally making lemonade. 

Through creativity and enterprise, the industry took a global pandemic and sought opportunities to reimagine and adapt transportation solutions through agile experimentation. We witnessed numerous cities implement pop-up bike lanes, slow streets, and streateries seemingly overnight in an effort to keep residents safe and public life alive. Cities managed to prioritize health and safety, while still pursuing their goals of increased sustainability and multimodality.

Oakland Slow Streets in use by all age groups. (Photo Credit: City of Oakland)

One of the most notable sparks of innovation is the Oakland Slow Streets program, which reached national attention (as well as initial critique) for being one of the first slow street cities in the US after they closed off 74 miles to vehicular traffic back in April. The trend spread quickly across the globe from Miami to Somerville and throughout Europe, with many communities fighting to keep them permanent today.

3. Prioritizing agility: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

This pandemic—and the distancing required to stop the spread—has created an instant transportation crisis. Everything we had ever learned about efficiently moving more people in as little space as possible is now turned on its head. Local governments adapted: transit agencies, departments of transportation and public works — not typically known to be the swiftest organizations — jumped into action.

One shining example of rapid re-imagination is the “cycling revolution”, particularly in Europe. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 1.1 billion Euros have been spent on cycling infrastructure. As a result, 2,250 km of bike lanes have been created in less than one year. The creativity, adaptability, and unprecedented speed behind such infrastructure transformations will lay the foundations for 2021 and beyond.

4. If your customers' needs change, your product should also change.

The Remix team kept pace this year. We wanted to build software that contributed to the tremendous task at hand: building livable cities, even as the meaning of “livability” continually evolves in life during COVID. To help, we developed:

  • Pandemic planning workflows: To adapt to our customers’ changing needs, we updated our platform to support quick service changes, provision of essential services, insights into vulnerable population mobility needs, better agency-wide collaboration, and direct engagement with communities.
Go-RTS (Gainesville, Florida) used Remix to prioritize service for families needing access to meal distribution.
  • Remix Explore for quick data insights and discoverability: We didn’t expect to launch a new product, but we knew the industry needed a way to accelerate crisis and recovery planning. Explore helps cities more swiftly develop a broader range of transportation concepts and get good ideas off the ground quickly.
  • Presentation Studio: Delivering information to passengers clearly and quickly is key. This transforms projects into public-facing materials complete with customizable, high-resolution visuals.
  • Design your Quick Build Network in Remix: Now you can plan out a holistic network and express the tactical details of your design at the same time.
This map proposes a collection of slow streets (in purple) that will provide space for outdoor dining for local businesses.
  • Collaboration in Remix: we introduced Remix Commenting, a collaborative tool specifically designed for the transportation industry. As people continue to work online, this helps strengthen conversations while also providing better visual and data context to enrich collaboration workflows.
Remix Comments are geo-tagged and threadable, making conversations easier to keep track of.

5. Last, but most certainly not least: centering what matters.

Equity - Transportation equity takes many forms, but behind all initiatives is the conviction that safe, accessible, affordable, and environmentally sustainable transportation options should be designed for all, not merely a privileged few.

Despite struggling in the face of COVID, cities have committed to innovating for a brighter future. SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin noted on the Rise of the Neighborhood Center in a webinar with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, “It often takes a lot more staff time to do what is equitable rather than what is easy.” I hope we continue to invest in the right thing, and not just the easy thing. 

My conversation with Rodney Fong and Jeff Tumlin on the impact of the COVID crisis.

Transit is still the backbone - I’m inspired by the industry for seizing this moment to reframe the role of transit. As Jarrett Walker pointed out in a Transpo Talk Exclusive, “[The pandemic has highlighted to us that] we are all dependent on essential workers, [which means] we are all transit-dependent. The success of our systems is about keeping civilization going, not about ridership.”  

Community - This year, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to FaceTime and Zoom with many of Remix’s customers and connect with them over shared challenges. I’m also grateful to the many Remixers who have hosted meditations and lunches, music and art gatherings, and events to celebrate diversity, and beyond.

Smiles mask folks’ competitive edge during a virtual cooking challenge, “Remix Chopped Championship Challenge”.

Reflecting on 2020, I’m honored to have led Remix through this truly unique year. I am uplifted by the innovation that the transportation industry continues to demonstrate in the face of adversity, and I’m inspired to continue our work and discover the new meaning of “livability” with you in 2021 and beyond.